A glimpse of The Species Seekers


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview (PDF) of Richard Conniff's The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth (W. W. Norton, 2011). The preview consists of chapter 11 — "'Am I Not a Man and a Brother?'" — in which Conniff discusses "the anxiety inspired by simultaneously encountering other primate species and other human races for the first time" in the age of discovery. He explains, "people in Europe had lived largely apart from apes and monkeys, as well as other human groups, for a period extending roughly from the migration out of Africa 50,000 years ago and the extinction of Neanderthals 30,000 years ago to the start of the age of discovery not quite 700 years ago. It was long enough to develop a considerable sense of separateness from the rest of nature, as well as a splendidly puffed-up notion of their own special place in the world."

The publisher describes The Species Seekers as "The story of bold adventurers who risked death to discover strange life forms in the farthest corners of planet Earth," adding, "At the start, everyone accepted that the Earth had been created for our benefit. We weren't sure where vegetable ended and animal began, we couldn't classify species, and we didn't understand the causes of disease. But all that changed as the species seekers introduced us to the pantheon of life on Earth — and our place within it." And Carl Zimmer writes, "Modern biology and medicine would not be what they are today if not for the death-defying naturalists who set out to travel the world and find new species. In The Species Seekers, Richard Conniff creates a marvelous rogues' gallery of these brave, sometimes reckless heroes of taxonomy, full of surprising tales of gorillas, platypuses, and disease-laden mosquitoes."